Several players and members of the NBPA met with Pope Francis to discuss racial injustice in the United States.
Five players from the National Basketball Association met with Pope Francis at the Vatican earlier this week to discuss social and economic justice. On Monday, Jonathan Isaac, Sterling Brown, Marco Belinelli, Kyle Korver, and Anthony Tolliver visited the papal library of the Apostolic Palace and spoke about their efforts to address inequality in their communities. It is important that the players met with the Pope this year, a time when the United States is once again grappling with its broken race relations. While the meeting may not guarantee social justice in the country, it has reaffirmed the need for activities that bring people together.
During the last season, several NBA players took a knee during the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice in the United States. They also wore jerseys with the phrase "Black Lives Matter" printed on them. These players were, of course, met with severe criticism. This only goes to show that there is more work to be done. Tolliver, who last played with the Memphis Grizzlies, said of the discussion, "Today's meeting was an incredible experience. With the Pope's support and blessing, we are excited to head into this next season reinvigorated to keep pushing for change and bringing our communities together." "We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis," Korver, who last played for the Milwaukee Bucks, added. "His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward."
In addition to the players, NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts attended the meeting together with Sherrie Deans, Executive Director of the NBPA Foundation, and Matteo Zuretti, the NBPA’s Chief of International Relations. The NBPA, National Basketball Players Association, is the labor union that represents NBA players. Roberts stated, "This meeting validates the power of our players’ voices. That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms. I remain inspired by our players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community."
Pope Francis, too, weighed in on the meeting. "Looking at the problems in society and especially those of social justice, sport can be a good means of resolving them," he shared. "We should always remember this because your message is the goodwill of sports but also working together as a team, the work as a community, and may this be the seed of beauty and of a shared development towards justice." The NBA is internally embroiled in issues of racial inequality, but perhaps it is time to take heed of the Pope's words and view sport as a tool for peacekeeping.